airtel has taken the leap and revamped its logo, and the brand is on media overdrive to drive home the point about its new avatar. One got to see the logo being incorporated into the masthead of The Times of India.One even got a voice SMS from none other than Sanjay Kapoor, CEO, Bharti airtel Ltd, informing about the revamp and some basic info on why it was done and what to expect in the months following the revamp. The multi-media campaign designed by JWT is also visible on all platforms. With the kind of monies spent, there is little chance that consumers will not see the new logo or be confused with the change. But the question is how well has the new logo been received? There has already been vocal opinion on how the logo is so much similar to its competitor Vodafone and thus seeming to be a ‘me too’, and failing to create a distinct identity.
Need for change
The new brand identity, designed by London-based Brand Union, is aimed at giving airtel a unified and youthful appearance for its global forays. Now, the question is whether a fresh identity was really required for the brand? Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, explained, “There is a logic to this change, as one sees that there was a fatigue among consumers on the existing logo. In fact, the telecom sector operates in a 24x7 space, which leads to a certain degree of logo impatience because these are present all around. So, it was good for the company to pre-empt this and bring out the change.”
On the other hand, Jessie Paul, MD, Paul Writer Strategic Advisory thinks the opposite. She asked, “Did they really require a logo change? Frankly, no. A little rejuvenation perhaps, but not yet a complete change. In a quarter of lower-than-expected numbers, a massive logo change exercise is an uncalled for distraction. Have they (finally) run out of ideas to excite the consumers and shareholders?”
So, do media watchers give the new logo the thumbs up or thumbs down? While Bijoor said that he personally did not like the logo, he also added that that didn’t really count as logos had a way of settling down, and with such huge spends on airtel, the logo would surely settle down in people’s minds fast.
Understanding the new logo
Ashwini Deshpande, Director, Elephant Strategy + Design, remarked, “airtel’s new logo has definitely aroused a lot of curiosity. The role of this mobile service brand was very different in 2002, when it was last designed. Those days, people used mobile phones far more purposefully and things like clarity of voice or network or consistency of service mattered a great deal. Things have changed so rapidly in the last five years that most big brands of today are not about legacy, stability, brick and mortar at all. Many of them, like Facebook and Twitter, did not exist nor did their categories just five years ago.”
Deshpande further noted, “Earlier, brands used to transmit their story and audience used to receive it. Today’s brand is about creating conversation. A brand is successful if it has opened up a million opportunities of conversations among users. In that sense, airtel has already done that. The new swoosh ‘a’ succeeds in its intention to say ‘I am most accessible and friendly’, but in the process may have gone a bit too casual as a graphic expression. So much so that it has no definitive memorable shape. However, it is well balanced with contemporary typography. airtel had the opportunity to get out of much used red colour, but it seems to have stayed in. I also can’t help but compare Vodafone and airtel identities at this point. Circular swoosh, red, white, lowercase letters… I feel the positioning of anything, anywhere, anytime is interesting and has huge communication possibilities, irrespective of culture, language, age. I find that quite potent.”
Jessie Paul commented, “The logo is bright and retains the red colour, which is strongly associated with airtel. Given airtel’s big budget advertising, it is quite likely to be imprinted in the public consciousness fast. The logo is an interpretation of a lower-case ‘a’. The use of all lower case is supposed to connote humility, which sounds like brand-management mumbo-jumbo. A better rationale would have been to say that it is in line with the modern SMS lingo. The positive is that by standing for something, albeit in the abstract, the logo is more likely to be memorable.”
“The big change is moving from a simple logo type to a visual logo symbol. The only excuse for a new logo is to symbolise great change. With the acquisition of Zain Telecom, hence going international, I guess there is some excuse. Their stated reason of launch of 3G sounds rather weak and anti-climatic. The true test of success for a logo change is whether it is also accompanied by a big organisational transformation, and that remains to be seen. None has been announced so far,” Paul further said.
Meanwhile, there is also strong opinion from people on how the new logo is very similar to airtel’s competitor Vodafone. This is certainly not good news for airtel.
Pavan Padaki, Director – Insights & Creative, brand-Comm, made a valid point when he observed, “I think from the branding point of view one needs to first see the reason behind the logo change, and one main reason for it is to create an identity that would appeal to a global consumer as the brand goes international. As the new logo looks very similar to Vodafone, I think the message it will give in the international market would be one of being ‘wannabe Vodafone’ and fails to create a distinct identity.”
Logo is not the be-all and end-all
On the other hand, Avik Chattopadhyay of Saffron Brand Consultants said, “It is too early to comment upon. And anyway, as the company is going to spend hundreds of crores on it and plaster it on all surfaces across the country, all of us will get used to it. There will really be no question of whether it is good or bad, appropriate or otherwise, relevant or not, expressive or mute. The reactions of the man or woman on the street will not matter, as it is not meant to be. I believe that a service is more than just a logo.”
Summing up, he said, “I want better service, quicker responses, lesser glitches, correct billing, no call-drops and pro-active customer management from airtel. If they can assure me that, consistently, then I really do not care what their mere logo is. Irrespective of what their logo is or will be, they will be a great brand. A brand is not a logo or a symbol. It is a promise delivered with confidence, credibility and consistency.”
For the ‘significant’ digital medium, airtel refreshes its global identity, goes more youthful